|From 09 November - 02 December 2007|
Glebe Music Festival
In conjunction with The Glebe Society Inc
1963 to 1987
Dr Vincent Earle Moxey Sheppard (Born 18 January
1922; died 22 February 1987)
His crowded flat amazes his friends: a doctor who ignores the dimensions (1963)
By Tony Bond, Monday 17 June 1963
A music-loving doctor with the magical quality of overcoming the dimensional restrictions of a four-roomed city flat is the envy of his Newcastle friends.
Before we introduce the doctor, let us demonstrate what he packs into his living room, which also has to accommodate the stairway to an upper floor.
His musical instruments are a piano with organ pedals, a harpsichord, a clavichord, a practice organ keyboard and (perhaps not quite musical) a radiogram and a stereotape recorder.
As if these are not enough in the normal room, space has been found for a large dining table and four chairs, a large sideboard, three big lounge chairs and two standard lamps.
No, we havent finished yet. There is also a bookcase, its contents including many books on cooking with spices, for the doctor is no mean chef.
And as Dr Vincent Earle Sheppard is a physical fitness enthusiast, there are usually in the living room, a few weights which have strayed from the weight-lifting equipment in the front room.
Hes off to Sydney.
Dr Sheppard, who was born at Emu Plains in 1922, and has therefore passed the 40-mark, probably considers in his modesty that he has worked no wonders in his crowded living room.
In fact, he told friends not long ago that he had managed to squeeze 28 people into his living room at a party which followed the recent dedication of the Christ Church Cathedral organ.
We accept the doctors word. There are ways of packing people in, and it always helps if the top of the harpsichord can do duty as a cocktail bar!
This is a kin of hail and farewell introduction, because Dr Sheppard, who has been assistant medical officer with the Department of Railways in Newcastle since 1958, is moving to Sydney, where he will be assistant Chief Medical Officer.
Organs, clocks, old cars.
His friends, who have been farewelling him over the past week, are not so sad as they might have been, because Dr Sheppard has assured them that he will be commuting back to Newcastle at weekends.
Dr Sheppard is probably best known in Newcastle for his musical activity, which has included organ recitals for the ABC in the Organists of Australia programme and his work as organist at Christ Church Cathedral.
Outstanding in his musical activity has been his chairmanship of the Newcastle Baroque Society, which he formed last year with the assistance of well-known musicians Keith Noake, Errol Collins and Harold Lobb.
Dr Sheppard became interested in baroque music when he was in London in the 1950s, furthering his studies in industrial medicine.
He attended recitals at the Royal Festival Hall conducted by Cecil Clutton, the English authority on organs, clocks and vintage cars.
Dr Sheppard continued his organ studies with Dr George Thalben-Ball of the Temple Church and Thurston Dart of Jesus College, Cambridge.
In Europe he studied organ building with Dutchman D. A. Flentrop and with E. F. Walcker in Germany.
Shortly after he returned to Australia, Dr Sheppard heard from Mr Flentrop of a Dutch cabinet organ built in 1790 by Knipscheer.
Dr Sheppard bought this organ, which is now valued at £2000. It is the organ which was used in Christ Church Cathedral while the cathedral organ was being rebuilt.
The doctor brought from London a clavichord, and he still recalls the gin and clavichord parties which were held on the liner Himalaya.
The German harpsichord, which he bought in Melbourne last year, became the nucleus of the Newcastle Baroque Society.
Referring to the Baroque Society recently, the Dean of Newcastle, the Very Reverend J. N. Falkingham, wrote: There is no doubt the society is making a valuable contribution to the life of Newcastle.
A new home for old pipe organ
A Dutch-built domestic pipe organ has joined Sydneys growing list of early musical instruments a collection which already includes a home-built harpsichord and lute and an odd clavichord or two.
Dr Vincent Sheppard, well known in Sydney for his pioneering work with other organists into the problems of organ playing and production, has brought the organ to Sydney.
The organ is at least 150 years old and looks like a large Dutch kitchen dresser with a keyboard where the lower shelf usually is, and pewter pipes where the cups and saucers usually hang.
It has one manual keyboard and about 200 pipes, some metal, others wood, and all of them original. The instrument is transportable, but not portable. Dr Sheppard takes it to pieces, pipe by pipe, when he wants to move it form one place to another, and in the process turns concert halls and churches into something like a plumbers workshop.
Dr Sheppard acquired the organ through the friendliness of a Dutch organ-building firm he visited in a recent European tour. When the organ came into their workshops for overhaul, the head of the firm wrote to Dr Sheppard asking if he wished to buy it. He did for £500.
From evidence provided by parts of the organs construction, Dr Sheppard places the date of building between 1790 and 1820. This almost qualifies it, closely enough for ordinary purposes, as a baroque instrument.
It was originally intended, he believes, as a domestic instrument for use at prayers and on other pious occasions. It may also have been used depending on the musical ability of the family as an accompaniment for voices and instruments, and perhaps as a solo instrument.
Dr Sheppard is going to use it for a secular purpose. Like other early music enthusiasts, he wants to hear music of the eighteenth century played, as near as possible, on the instruments for which it was written.
This involves some readjustment for the listener. People used to, and pleased with, the thundering sonorities of the average church organ what Dr Sheppard calls the romantic organ may probably find his Dutch organ a little lacking in sound and fury.
But the sound is just what should be avoided in the sort of music that Bach and his contemporaries and predecessors wrote. Clarity and precision are more important than crashing blows of sound; and these two qualities are the chief characteristic of the Dutch organ.
Dr Sheppard and his fellow enthusiasts believe that all the trouble the organ brings them is worth it for the sake of the beautiful sound it produces. And trouble it certainly is.
Apart from the pure plumbing involved, people working on the organ must bring to it a knowledge of cabinet making, hydraulics, elementary physics and electrical engineering.
For although they are musical purists, these enthusiasts are not mechanical purists. The Dutch organ has an electric motor to provide its wind power, has been treated with plastic solutions on its moving wooden surfaces, has special plastic washers where they are needed, and contains a wind storage tank invented in Sydney to eliminate the asthmatic wheezing that some elderly organs are prone to.
All this modern gadgetry, however, makes no difference to the sound. It is clear, limpid and beautiful; a perfect accompaniment to a voice, strings or woodwind instruments. And, in addition, it is an extremely handsome piece of furniture.
Six keyboards in the house of the concert master (1970)
By Pat Morath, 6 February 1970
Six keyboard instruments in a room squash, to say the least, any idle speculation about the rooms function.
The music room in Dr V. Sheppards charming stone house at Glebe has no velvet drapes or soft lights, but what it lacks, for the present, in refinements of décor, the instruments make up for. They are its jewels and furbishing.
There is an eighteenth century Dutch house organ which Dr Sheppard found while he was studying organ building in the Netherlands some years ago, and brought back with him.
There is a table grand piano, circa 1840, a walnut baby grand, an upright piano, a clavichord, ancient, and a harpsichord, modern.
Dr Sheppard is completely unpedantic about his knowledge and interest in music: His taste extends as far back as you like and as far forward as you please but of all the instruments his favourite is the organ.
He is concert master of a group which gives monthly recitals at Christ Church St Laurence, with audiences from an initial 40 to last months 250.
What particularly pleases him about his music-room are its proportions, with tha cedar arch in its magical one-third position and its acoustics.
Theyre splendid, he said. Weve often taped recitals here for broadcasting.
Local timber flooring in the room is secured by hand-forged square nails; the doorways and window frames are of cedar.
Dr Sheppard (a doctor of medicine, not music) has been living in the house for four years, and in that time with friends help has transformed the front garden into an attractive forecourt which last year won first prize in the Glebe Societys garden contest.
The age and early history of the house are uncertain. The earliest records Dr Sheppard can find confirm that, at one time, it was occupied by Michael Golden, builder, surveyor, and later architect, who moved with his family to his estate of 2 acres, 1 rood and 10 perches in 1855, well away (as an 1840 description of the district in the Sydney Morning Herald put it) from the foetid air of the slaughter houses fronting Blackwattle Swamp (now Wentworth Park).
The house is built in Georgian colonial style, of sandstone quarried on the site.
Oyster shell like mortar has been used to bind the stone in the walls; Dr Sheppard will use the same recipe hes saving oyster shells for crushing when the proposed additions are begun.
A man of many parts (1970)
The Australian, 28 March 1970
Doctor Vincent Sheppard is a medical doctor, one of the best organists in Australia, a gardener on the grand old scale, an erstwhile astronomer, an epicurean, and a house renovator.
In what order it is hard to tell.
Ask about the successful series of twilight concerts he has just pioneered at Christ Church St Laurence and he starts bounding, brandy in hand, across the garden to shoe you one of the 80 species of begonia he has planted.
Ask him about the garden and he will quote Bacons Almighty God planted a garden, and indeed it is one of the purest pleasures but on a fading note while he dashes into his kitchen your eyes have the quotation right.
While he is in the kitchen, your eyes have wandered over the collection of pianos, organs, harpsichords and clavichords scattered around the elegant nineteenth century sitting room. Then he appears again laughing because he has misquoted Bacon, and he is armed with recipe books. Somewhere among them there is a recipe for potage bonne femme which he insists must be tried.
Back on the verandah of this superb Georgian colonial mansion and soothed by the sun setting over his garden, the interview runs a more logical course.
When I did medicine at Sydney University, somebody wrote in the university year book: Vincent Sheppard entered the Faculty of Medicine in 1946 and began a successful career in music.
I was always desperately interested in music; I started to play the piano when I was six and while I was doing medicine I became the university organ scholar, At this time I was also fascinated by the stars, I bought a giant telescope with a fourteen-inch reflector. Later I have up stargazing. I think that one can have too many interests.
I gave my first recital in the Great Hall at the age of 17. It was for the ABC and was probably incredibly bad. Although I was so consumed with music I didnt give up medicine.
Why? Well, Im not quite sure. Once the registrar of Sydney University, then a Mr Shellshear, was passing through my rooms, Id just failed my finals and I told him I thought I might give up medicine and just concentrate on music. He looked at me for a few minutes, slowly ground his lower jaw and thundered: The time to give up medicine is when you have got a degree in medicine.
Vincent went on to get his finals and today, as well as pursuing his career as a musician, works as a doctor with the Department of Railways.
Of his decision to stay in medicine, he says: On balance I regret not having been more single-minded about music. Because I was still am very serious about it. After my early start I went through a phase when I realised that I would have to give up concerts and recitals so I could go back to square one with a really good teacher and develop a sound technique.
Relaxation is the key to success and enjoyment in so many things. Its playing an organ and looking as if you are enjoying it, because you are enjoying it. It means you can rely on your technique not letting you down, which helps you to relax. It is sitting on this verandah with a brandy in a glass held lightly, not clenched, looking at a garden which gives the illusion of careless abundance even though it is in fact planned down to the last inch.
Bringing Bach back to the organ (1971)
Robert Darroch, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 1971
This week the baroque strains of the Bach Concerto in D minor for Organ and Strings wafted from a Georgian house in Glebe.
This was a very unusual musical event, for the Bach concerto was not written by Bach but by a Sydney musicologist, Dr Ralf Schureck.
Although Bach was the greatest and most prolific of organ composers, he left no organ concertos, although his contemporary, Handel, left almost 20. He undoubtedly composed organ concertos but, having a phenomenal memory, he kept them in his head and never committed them to paper.
However, in several of this famous harpsichord concertos he included parts of organ concertos as isolated movements. Dr Schureck, a masters music graduate from Cambridge, decided to try to reconstruct the original organ pieces from the harpsichord fragments. He studied Bachs transcription methods, and re-transcribed the movements back to make concertos for organ and orchestra.
The first fruit of Dr Schurecks musical archaeology the new Bach D minor will have its world premiere in Sydney very soon. It will be one of the main features of the 1971 Twilight Recitals of the Organ Institute of New South Wales.
The recitals, which begin on Tuesday at Sydneys Christ Church St Laurence, near Railway Square, are becoming one of the musical years most pleasurable and interesting events. This year there will be 11 recitals and, although the entire program has not yet been decided, it is certain they will include some other important firsts for Sydney.
One will be six concertos for two organs by the eighteenth-century Spanish composer Father Antonio Soler. These important organ works have never been performed in Sydney.
Works for two keyboard instruments will be the theme of this years recitals. Compositions to be played included works by the classical baroque composers Bach (old and new), Soler, Handel, Scarlatti, Purcell and Couperin. Other features include several new Australian compositions (one a large-scale work for solo voice, organ and strings by Raymond Hanson) and a flute quartet using reproductions of fifteenth-century instruments brought together by the Sydney flautist Peter Richardson.
At the first recital the organists will be Dr Vincent Sheppard and Robert Goode. They will play the Christ Churchs resident organ and a continuo organ made available by the principal of St Andrews College.
Dr Sheppard, at whose Glebe home rehearsals are being held, is the director of the recitals, He and his colleagues at the Organ Institute are in the van of a fight to rehabilitate the public image of the organ, an image tarnished by the efforts of generations of church organists.
In the seventeenth-century Cromwell, the Great Protector, went round England busting organs because they were pagan symbols. What remained of organ musicianship was lighted by nineteenth-century religious music.
But the organ is regaining popularity. People are rediscovering the baroque vivacity of eighteenth-century organ music, and modern composers are now writing for this much-maligned instrument.
Music written for the organ but played on other instruments loses something, Dr Sheppard said. Were trying to restore something.
The Institutes efforts seem to be appreciated. Reviews have been favourable, and audiences in the beautiful old Christ Church increasing. Students, hippies, housewives and businessmen drop in about 6pm, buy a program, and sit down to enjoy the music.
The Institute was formed in the mid-1950s, and has a decidedly scientific and medical bias in its leadership. Its directors comprise an acoustics engineer, a physics lecturer, a medical practitioner, a lecturer in psychiatry and a professor of organ.
It has some interesting plans for the future. It will be commissioning organ works in the modern idiom of Australians.
Indeed, the Organ Institute is pulling out all the stops.
Letter from the Australian Broadcasting Commission 21 August 1981
Dear Dr Sheppard
The music which you kindly allowed us to record on your organ, played by Christopher Hogwood, has been included in a program compiled by him entitled The Diary of Thomas Dallam. This will be broadcast on ABC Radio 2 on 28th September, 1981 at 8.00pm.
WEA and the Organ Society of Sydney: Second Course
David McIntosh: Organ
The 16th and 17th centuries have been described as the Golden Age of Spanish music. They were preceded by nearly 8 centuries of Moslem/Arab rule commencing at the Arab occupation of Spain in the year 711, lasting through years of bitter feuds until the reconquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI in 1085 and finally the capture of Granada from the Moors in 1492 which marked the end of the Christian reconquest of Spain. The Houses of Aragon and Castile were united by the marriage of Ferdinand to Isabel in 1469, and the marriage of their mad daughter Juana la Loca to Philip the Handsome of Burgundy thrust Spain into the forefront of European power politics in the 16th century
The use of the organ the church of Tona in Catalonia had one as early as the year 888 had steadily expanded as Pedrells Organografía Musical Antigua Española relates, including the construction of the great Toledo organ in the days of Charles V, begun in 1543 by Gonzalo Hernández of Córdoba, and completed by the Toledan master, Juan Gaytán in 1549. Padre José Antonio de Donastia, the composer, has published a study of Basque organs, including that of Tolosa of 1686, showing that even modest towns thought it suitable to their dignity to possess finely-equipped instruments. Already in the mid-16th century there were organs yielding an extraordinary range of sound, from the stridently militant and Baroque brilliance to the mellifluous contemplative nature of the registers usually reserved for the Offertory and Agnus.
It was an organist who raised Spanish keyboard music to its most sustained heights in the first half of the 16th century. Antonio de Cabezón (born in 1500 at Castillo de Matajudíos; died in 1566) was termed a 16th century Spanish Bach by Felipe Pedrell, who published his organ music in the monumental Hispaniae Schola Música Sacra.
The musicologist Will Apel develops the analogy: To associate c with Bach, as we have casually done, signifies more than the expression of an unconsidered admiration. It points to an inner relationship that links the Spanish master more closely to the great German than perhaps to any other musician. In any event, I know of no one among the clavier and organ composers of all time who, by reason of musical spirituality, profundity and exalted seriousness of purpose, austerity and sublimity of thought, and last but not least complete contrapuntal mastery, more properly belongs in his company.
Cabezón, blind from birth, was already in service to the Imperial Court as organist to the Portuguese wife of Charles V at the age of eighteen, continuing this attachment to the Emperor until this Monarchs retirement and then transferring to Philip II in a close attendance which, despite his disability, made him one of Europes most travelled musicians, including a tour of Europe which lasted on-and-a-half years in 1548 and 1549, and a visit to England in 1554 and 1555 for the marriage of Philip to Mary Tudor.
Cabezóns compositions may be divided into three main categories: short liturgical pieces (versicles) used in connections with the Mass; more extensive pieces in contrapuntal style called tientos (a term approximately equivalent to prelude); and pieces in the form of a theme and variations called diferencias.
The work called Diferencias sobre la Gallarda Milanesa by Cabezón will be played to illustrate this third form. (Later, a work by Cabezón in the form of a tiento will be played).
A notable contemporary of Cabezón was the theorist Juan Bermudo (born in 1510; died 1565) of the Minorite Order, whose Declaración de Instrumentos Musicales (Osuna, 1549 and 1555) is an invaluable compendium of information concerning musical instruments of the 16th century and methods of musical performance. The book also contains many illuminating references to famous contemporary musicians and throws light on various musical practices of the time. The hue and cry against arrangements that rises perennially in our own day was also raised by Bermudo, who fulminates against the indiscriminate practice of making arrangements of works by noted composers. A Tiento by Bermudo from the Declaración de Instrumentos Musicales will be played.
Greatest of the Spanish organ masters after Cabezón was Juan Bautista José Cabanilles (born 1644; died 1712) organist of the Cathedral of Valencia. His Intermedes du Ve ton pour la Messe de Angelis will be played.
Spanish musicians had invaded Italy in full force during the 16th century but the tables were turned during the 18th century when Italian musicians swarmed into Spain. One Italian musician who spent a large portion of his life in Madrid was Domenico Scarlatti (born 1685; died 1757). I quote from Gilbert Chase: Scarlattis sojourn in Spain was not a mere episode in his life as some writers seem to regard it. It was the dominant factor of his whole existence and artistic career. Scarlatti had been living in the Iberian Peninsula since 1720 when he was called to Lisbon as Maestro of the Royal Chapel. In 1729 he settled in Madrid and remained there for the rest of his life. During the 37 years that he lived on Iberian soil he gave to the world those unique keyboard pieces that form a landmark in the development of instrumental music. As an example a Sonata (Logo 498) from his complete works will be played.
Turning briefly to Portugal, the most notable Portuguese harpsichordist was José Carlos de Seixas (born 1709; died 1742), sometimes called the Portuguese Scarlatti. He wrote hundreds of toccatas and sonatas, as did Scarlatti. The Sonata seconda in A minor will be played.
In the same year that Scarlatti was summoned to Madrid, 1729, there was born a Spanish musician who was destined to become his pupil and to carry on his tradition. This was Antonio Soler, born in the Catalonian town of Olot de Porrera. In 1752 he took Holy Orders and entered the monastery of the Escorial, there to spend the rest of his life as organist and choirmaster, at the same time composing copiously. Between Solers arrival at the Escorial and Scarlattis death in 1757 there was an interval of 5 years during which time Soler received instruction from the Neopolitan master. Soler composed at least seventy-five harpsichord sonatas, a large quantity of religious music, six quintets for strings with organ or harpsichord obligato, much dramatic music, and many organ works including six concertos for two organs. The Afectuoso, Andante non Largo from the IVth Concerto and the whole of the IIIrd Concerto (Andantino and Minue) will be played.
There will be a time for discussion followed by a short break and then a presentation of slides and recordings of European organs. Finally a work by Cabezón and three works by J. S Bach will be played. The work by Cabezón is Tiento du IVe Ton. The works by Back are from Clavierübung:
Fughetta super: Wir glauben allan einen
A note on the 18th century Dutch organ of Dr Sheppard:
This house organ was built by Knipscheer cerca 1790 and restored by D. A Flentrop in 1955, subsequently being brought out to Ausralia by Dr Sheppard. There is one keyboard of 54 notes and there are 4½ ranks:
There are a total of 246 pipes, on a low pressure of approximately 2½ inches, the pipes being unnicked with quarter-mouths. The sound produced is unforced yet with a prominent attach and a remarkably penetrating quality.
The harpsichord is by Sperrhake of Passau.
Chase, Gilbert. The Music of Spain. Dover Publications,
New York 1959.